In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.
It's Harold Moscowitz's 12th birthday today. . . really. I have the birth certificate so it's not just a made up day. Twelve years ago, this little animal was born, and three months into his life I purchased him from Pets on Lex on 86th Street with the money I had saved for October rent.
Eviction notices and several extra shifts at Ann Taylor later (this was pre-Schooled days) and a teacher's salary does NOT make allowance for Upper East Side shih tzu prices, I was able to make up the $1200 dollars. I named him after Harold, the manager at the store (he gave me $200 off - - if you care to know specifics, Harold the dog was actually $1400, but Harold the manager was so kicked to have a dog named after him that he knocked off the two hundred bucks. Initially Harold the manager had told me that the reason this particular, feisty, angry little guy was separated from his litter was because he was "a touch aggressive." He suggested I take a lame little girl puppy, but I wanted him.
Moscowitz at three months was angry and alone and anxious and pensive and moody and. . . wonderful. I remember holding him close and whispering, "I promise to love and respect you forever." I even felt corny saying it, but it was one of those sentiments borne of the heart - my brain was still trying to process how getting a puppy and forgoing rent was even remotely okay. Have you ever met someone - and yes, Harold is human, ask anyone who knows him - and you know you can never be without them? You don't really care if it makes sense, or if the person will fit with the rest of your life. You just know that you can't breathe without them. . .even if everyone else tells you for the next twelve years how mean and strange the person is, you don't care. You love them a little more every day.
Back to Harold. (Did I ever leave?)
They put him in a little box which read, "I'm going to my new home," and he cried all the way to 81st and 3rd and all the way up the five-floor walk-up. When we arrived at 5A, he stopped crying and looked at me with all the trust and love in the world. He said simply, "Hullo, Mama. Pleased to meet you."
He is my entire heart.
How have I loved him? Let me count the ways. There wasn't a student I taught who didn't know his first and last name. His picture was framed in every classroom I ever taught. Harold never had a dog walker. . . I went home at lunch to walk him. He came with me for my tutoring sessions. He came with me to Barnes and Noble the day my book came out so we could spy like two little creeps on people who looked at the book. . . and yes, it was dedicated to him. So even when the book gets translated into different languages, like Hungarian, for example, Harold gets translated, too:
He moved with me from that five-floor walk-up on 81st Street to 72nd Street when I got married. He was there on my wedding day, and he was there with me the day (well, night, actually) my marriage fell apart. "I'll take the shih tzu and the shoes," was how I ended it. Not that I love my Louboutins more than Harold, but the alliteration sounded grand, and if I hadn't had him as I walked out of the apartment at 1:15 a.m. I don't know what I would have done. If you've known the love of a dog in your lifetime, you know what I mean. They have a way of looking at you with such a sublime mixture of complete innocence and wisdom that you are humbled.
"I would never hurt you," he said simply and profoundly, and leaving was no longer a tragedy, but a celebration.
People who hurt you suck balls. When you discover something bad and you walk away from the cause, that is an awesome thing. The stupidity of certain societal constructs never fail to baffle Harold and I. We think divorces are a pain, but they aren't always bad. More often than not they can prove to be the necessary aloe vera to the rash that has become your life. (That's a bad metaphor, but Harold and I have decided we like Aloe Vera as a product and a concept and shall be using it quite liberally). People who cause pain and make you feel bad about yourself are terrible human beings not worthy of a dog's love. And so I wasn't leaving my home in the middle of the night, crying my eyeballs out.
I was walking Harold Moscowitz and I was happy.
Harold simplifies my life. . . and like all great teachers, he leads by example. He likes to eat, sleep, and take occasional walks - he enjoys Dominos pizza, Kraft singles cheese, freeze dried liver, and ice-cream. He doesn't enjoy having friends - he's suspicious by nature - and likes to observe and be quiet. He thinks NYC cab fare is bullshit. He does, however, find Taxi TV oddly compelling, but not when Obama is on (or staying at the Loews and making a further mess of Park Avenue). It goes without saying that politically, Harold leans far, far right. He's more Herbert Spencer than Charles Darwin. You get it.
And he absolutely loves to read. He thinks people who don't read actively choose to be stupid. Harold finds a lack of intellectual curiosity to be the most abhorrent quality amongst humanity.
Six months ago my father bought me another shih tzu, Luigi Maestro (Louhizzles McNizzles). Louhizzles is pure joy and sunshine and loves everyone and likes to do everything. He's cute. I love him.
For people who don't get why it's always going to be the ill-tempered, moody Harold who has a hold on my heart, my only explanation is that I am the best of who I am when I am with him.
A dog can have that kind of power.
He's the anchor in my Back to A journey. This is the first time I have formally sat down to reflect and write about why I love my dog, and I think it's partly because he's twelve and I know my time with him is limited, and partly because in this new life in which I am late for most everything and everyone, I refuse to rush a single moment I have left with him. Harold is my best friend. I have never met anyone cooler than him.
Happy birthday baby boy blue. Thank you for a lifetime of loyalty. . . back to the greatest gift that can't be bought.
Update: July 23, 2012
Harold Turns Thirteen. . . Back to Being More Handsome Than Ever Before
How Harold Feels About This Post's Update And Being Thirteen:
I love you, Harold.
Updated July 23, 2013: Harold Moscowitz turns 14 - MORE HANDSOME THAN EVER. Is someone even more pleased to have his favorite BacktoA.com post updated? Correct.
He still walks in sunshine. . . leading me through the mystical paths of Narnia every morning. Moscowitz is magic.
May you stay forever young, my best friend. Golden child, my heartbeat. Happy 18th Birthday, little baller.
Moscowitz was Back to A the day he was born, and never veered.